Wanting to hear violin music, not violin exercises
As I've been listening to more and more classical lately, and in particular violin solos and concertos, I'm struck by how often the underlying work seems to be less about making music, and more about showing one can play in some complicated or difficult way. As music, it is not always that enjoyable.
I was told the Bach Partitas were teaching works, and thus would fall into "see what I can do".
When I listen to Vivaldi Four Seasons, I hear music. When I listen to Moonlight Sonata or Fur Elise, I hear music (I know that's more piano oriented, but still). When I listen to Bach's Minuet in G Minor, I generally hear music, but a little bit of etude. Also, the 5th and 6th notes are usually hit so hard and staccato (piano), that it is out of character with the entire rest of the piece, and now that I've really noticed it once, it's destroying the piece for me.
Is this just part of the whole classical genre, i.e. it's some sort of ongoing competition?
I know I rambled a bit there, but.....
Bach's Sonatas & Partitas are certainly not "teaching pieces"!!
My teacher told me the partitas were originally instructional pieces for his students. As I'm reading in Wiki, it seems the works came about because there was little or nothing existing for violin solo work, and these pieces established the violin as a solo instrument. Given that, perhaps "demonstration pieces" might be better than "instructional pieces". Of the ones I've listened to (probably not all), it was not enjoyable from a listening perspective. From a "I wish I could do that" perspective, yes.
I can’t imagine Bach wrote the chaconne for instructional purposes.
The Bach S&Ps are not teaching pieces! Though it's unclear how much if any public performance they received in Bach's lifetime.
Until Casals started playing them in recitals, the Bach Cello Suites were considered largely etude material. Maybe no one had the imagination to see them as beautiful music before, but a lot of pieces can sound like etudes if they are played like etudes. Hell, there is a Kreutzer etude that sounds a lot like the prelude from the first cello suite, and I'm sure that someone with some commitment and imagination could play it as more than an etude.
I can well imagine that someone like Bach might save his best musical ideas for pieces that he intended to assign to his own students. I heard that Heifetz performed Kreutzer No. 8 (E major) as a recital encore. We're often told that we should practice etudes not only for their technical content but also to extract as much musicality as possible (which admittedly is kind of a chore sometimes). But all of that suggests to me that there is a lot of gray area between what's a study and what's performance repertoire. One (wo)man's trash is another's treasure.
I'll admit I'm unschooled musically, and come from a fiddling background (though I'm a low level player). I guess I'm just logging out loud what I like and don't like, and what I don't like after trying for a while.
About the Bach pieces: Bach did not establish anything with them. He followed a tradition in Germany for such violin solo music. The most famous pre-Bach composer of such pieces would be Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber. Unlike Bach he had the player tune the violin differently (i.e. not in 5th) for each of his so called "Rosencrantz sonatas". In this way double stops could be played that are not playable with the standard tuning.
Paul, I did see a YouTube video of Heifitz playing a Kreutzer etude as an encore but seem to recall it as #2 but I coukd be wrong.
Hi David. Just an idea. Maybe there are a few things that are in the mix: musical knowledge (or lack thereof - nothing to be ashamed off, I'm guilty too, we learn) and complexity of the musical piece ie understanding and following musical structure and content, personal taste as you suspect, confounding virtuosity with intricate complexity (and polyphony?), overt simplification and generalisation of the idea of the etudes: Chopin etudes cannot be boiled down to mere technical exercises...nor those of Paganini. There are actually pretty etudes all the way from Wolfhart, Mazas to Kreutzer, Rode, etc. Finally, Oistrakh could have play Sevcik theme and variations and it would have been immensely beautiful ( but not the drier Sevcik stuff :)
I do want to hear "a" violin as part of study, rather than a whole section of them, just as motivation, while I'm listening for pleasure. I'll try Dumky Trio. I'll try New World too. I don't think I ever gave it a full listen.
IMHO, Bach played by a master is the Music of God.
There is a show-off element to almost all musical performance, because of its role in entertainment -- and often, satisfying the demands of a patron.
Maybe I better start at Haydn.
I chose Dvorak deliberately. He was not only a great composer, he was a violist (in the orchestra) before he could live by composing. He knew how to write for strings like few other composers. Moreover his music has a connection to folk music which I thought might appeal to someone with a "fiddling background" as you put it. I want to add the "American" string quartet (op. 96 in F) to the list.
This is a forum for violinists rather than music lovers, so it's not so surprising that we often seem to be neglecting the vast tranches of music written for the sake of the music itself rather than the expansion and demonstration of technical expertise. I mean of course orchestral and chamber music, the vast majority of which was written for players of modest ability, amateurs even!
OP, I think the important thing for you to realize is that exercises can be played musically, and pieces can be played like exercises. HOW something is played is totally up to the musician playing it.
I find almost anything by Schubert and Mendelssohn to be an excellent introduction to chamber music... so much so that it's hard to pick a single piece to recommend from either composer. I suppose the big crowd-pleasers from Schubert are his "Death and the Maiden" string quartet and "Trout" quintet, but also look into his Cello Quintet (which means string quartet + cello, not 5 cellos). For Mendelssohn, my personal favorites include String Quintet No. 2, Piano Trio No. 1, String Quartet No. 3, and of course his Octet. Another great introductory piece is Borodin's String Quartet No. 2. All three of the above composers wrote all or most of their chamber music for amateurs!
Someone told me once that composers don't (didn't) write the music thinking in the public. They compose thinking in the musicians that will play it. Sometimes, namely, as they have a particular orchestra or player in mind. So it's easy and frequent that composers throw "candies" in the composition for those players.
Tanks all for all the works to check out. And the advice to look for sonatas, not concertos.
@Carlos "Someone told me once that composers don't (didn't) write the music thinking in the public. They compose thinking in the musicians that will play it." I'm not sure who contemporary composers are thinking of when they write long and complex works whose premiere is also frequently their derniere. Not the players for sure. A bass-tuba player of my acquaintance brought delight to my ears by telling me the anagram of "Harrison Birtwistle" that someone in the English National Opera pit had come up with while wrestling with one of his operas. It began "'Orrible warts..." and you can easily work out the rest.
With reference to classical sonatas, be aware that Beethoven's "Kreutzer" could be considered as at least halfway to being Beethoven's Violin Concerto No 2. And anyway, this is a violin sonata where you need a PDG pianist!
May be you're confusing violin partitas and sonatas with the cello suites, which were practice/technical/etude-like pieces for the cello, until a cellist named Casals worked on them.
If you're at the standard* where you could expect to successfully perform a Kreutzer or Rode etude in a public recital or as an encore then I would suggest there is more useful musical material for this in Rode than in most of Kreutzer that would be attractive to an audience - Rode 6 and 7 for example.
Oh, as violin concertos go: perhaps the Brahms concerto would appeal? While it's very much a virtuoso piece, it was panned after its first performance for not highlighting the soloist enough! One critic accused Brahms of making the solo "almost part of the orchestra," one quipped that it was not so much a concerto for the violin as a concerto "against the violin," and Pablo de Sarasate refused to play it because he thought the solo violin had too many rests.
I have that same negative emotional reaction to many of the 19th century violin concertos, (Not the Brahms, only about half of the Tchaikovsky). It's like watching the high-wire artist at the circus, or the elephant walking on two legs. You are afraid they are going to fall and crash at any moment. Maybe if I played a different instrument I might enjoy hearing those pieces more.
I am strange (no news, I suppose), in that I love and have a special place for the romantic virtuoso repertoire. Not "etudes" at all to me, but it represents a high point in violin artistry which has been mostly lost nowadays.
What do you call "long forgotten jewelry"?
Pearls before time?